The government forgot it's for the people

One could say, "Better late than never."

But in two cases, the federal government's delays have been inexcusable.

The first case is the 1996 federal budget. Remember the shutdowns last year? That was the first part of this battle.

Ideologues on both sides of the aisle kept compromise from being reached. And those ideologues weren't just minor players like Steve Stockman, the East Texas Republican, or Paul Wellstone, the Minnesota Democrat who makes Ted Kennedy look conservative.

Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, each making early efforts to win this November's presidential election, were by far the worst offenders.

The second case is one of those stories about a historical injustice finally being corrected. These stories have abounded in recent years, from Mississippi finally getting around to outlawing slavery to the Japanese admitting that they weren't very nice to the Chinese and Filipino women forced to be sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in World War II.

This particular case has to do with seven black soldiers who fought in WWII. All seven performed acts of heroism worthy of the Medal of Honor, the military's highest honor. But in the United States Army, where blacks still served in separate units, blacks were simply not given the Medal of Honor.

After a report by a team of military historians, the seven have been recommended to receive the award. All that remains is for Congress to waive the deadline for WWII medals, which expired in 1952. But there will probably be no reluctance there.

And therein lies the problem. Congress will certainly be eager to correct the injustice and indignity perpetrated 50 years ago by people who are no longer around. Members will stand up and make self-righteous speeches, and everything will be OK.

But they continue to make mistakes -- incredibly boneheaded mistakes -- today. Mistakes that hurt the people who are alive here, today.

Mistakes like shutting down the government to prove their points. Regardless of what one thinks about what the government should do, no one is willing to have the vital functions of the government shut down without something to take their place first. Yet citizens were denied visas and access to public lands, and important agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- the country's best defense against infectious disease -- were simply closed down without warning.

All so that Bob Dole and Bill Clinton wouldn't have to blink.

It's easy to make speeches about correcting the injustice of the past, but true leaders work on preventing catastrophes in the present.

Our leaders have let this point elude them.

Visit The Daily Cougar